Japan and Singapore have the most powerful passports in the world, according to the Henley Passport Index for the first quarter of 2022. These two countries are followed by Germany and South Korea that jointly hold the second spot.  

The index is published quarterly by Henley & Partners, a London-based global citizenship and residence advisory firm. The index includes 199 passports, and 227 travel destinations comprised of countries and autonomous territories.

The methodology for determining the most powerful passports is straightforward: passports are ranked according to the number of destinations their holders can visit without a prior visa requirement. The rankings are based on data provided by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Global Passport Rankings

The top five spots in the Henley Passport Index are occupied exclusively by Asian and European countries, given below. The number of visa-free destinations entitled by the passport is indicated in brackets next to the country name.

  1. Japan and Singapore (192)
  2. Germany and South Korea (190)
  3. Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, and Spain (189)
  4. Austria, Denmark, France, Netherlands, and Sweden (188)
  5. Ireland and Portugal (187)

As expected, there are huge variations in the strength of passports between countries. While a holder of the Japanese or Singaporean passport can visit 192 destinations without a prior visa requirement, at the other end of the table is Afghanistan whose passport entitles its holders access to only 26 destinations without a prior visa.

Among other countries, the United States (186) and the United Kingdom (186) are among the countries jointly placed sixth in the index. Russia (119) and China (80) are placed at the joint 46th and 64th ranks, respectively.

The Travel Apartheid

According to Henley & Partners, an individual can, on average, visit 107 countries today without requiring a visa in advance – a figure up from 57 countries in 2006. However, the strength of a passport is found to closely correspond to the level of per capita income in the country. In general, the citizens of lower-middle income and low-income countries have far less visa-free access to destinations compared to those in high-income and upper-middle income countries. A major reason for this divide is that citizens of poorer countries are often considered high-risk in terms of overstay, security, and asylum.  

Also noteworthy is the impact of COVID-19 and its variants in restricting travel access to many destinations. The poorer countries have arguably been placed under far greater restrictions than the wealthier ones. In fact, the recent travel ban on certain African countries following the outbreak of the Omicron variant led the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to describe the situation as a “travel apartheid”. COVID-19 testing, insurance, and similar requirements in recent months may also have contributed to travel inequality and discrimination.